Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Chicago Artist Writers

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love, and this week we’re focusing our attention on the work of Chicago Artist Writers. In this interview with Dan Gunn, artist and curator Faheem Majeed discusses his exhibition Post Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980–2016, a reflection on the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s groundbreaking 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980. Majeed discusses institutional change, critiques of folk art, and his motivation to revisit this historical moment. The interview was originally published on September 29, 2016.

William Dawson. Collected Figures, c. 1970.

William Dawson. Collected Figures, c. 1970.

Dan Gunn: How did you come to curate this show, and what had you heard about the previous show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1982?

Faheem Majeed: I really wasn’t aware of the show prior [to Intuit’s invitation]. I was aware of Intuit, and they had invited me a while back to do a talk about the Chicago artist Eddie Harris, who is in the show. Anyone who knows my work knows that I was formerly the Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center. My art practice centers around the mission of that historic WPA art center to support artists, especially artists of color. When I was invited, I spoke as an artist, I always speak as an artist first and as an administrator second. I talked about being impressed with the craftsmanship of Chicago artists and sculptors like Mr. Imagination, Eddie Harris, and David Philpot, and their ability to carve forms and do assemblage. These were things that I was interested in as a sculptor myself. The terminology of “folk artist,” “outsider,“ “intuitive,” none of these terms were familiar.

Dan Gunn: Because you encountered these people as contemporaries through the South Side Community Art Center?

Faheem Majeed: Absolutely, yes. They were people I admired because of their artwork. So I talked about that instead of how their work was classified. The board president and former executive director here, Cleo Wilson, said she really liked the way that I was talking about the work and approached me along with some of the art committee members to come and curate this show. I know what “outsider art” is in a very surface way, and I asked them to tell me what that is. Is that different than “folk art”? If there is a Black folk art, is there a White folk art? So I had all of these questions. These questions led me down the rabbit hole.

Read the full interview here.